A light layer of snow gently crunched under my feet as I walked. It’d been lightly snowing since I’d left my dorm, gradually accumulating on the icy sidewalk. I was dressed appropriately for the weather, or rather as appropriately as I could be. I idly ran my fingers over my uniform jacket. It wasn’t the warmest, but it was still better than no jacket at all, even if only by a thin margin.Victim: Tetrax333
Prompt: Rin goes Christmas shopping alone for a friend.
There was nobody else walking around, the air heavy with the distinct silence of a winter's night. A few businesses still had their lights on, their muted glow illuminating my face as I passed by. The Shanghai was open, surprisingly. As far as I knew, Yuuko was their only employee, and it was probably too late for her shift to still be going, especially with tonight being Christmas Eve.
Admittedly, I wasn’t as familiar with the other businesses in town. My introduction to town, via Shizune and Misha, hadn’t allowed me to get acquainted with much beyond the Shanghai and the convenience store.
Shizune and Misha had come by, actually, to invite me to come with them for Christmas. I politely declined. I would’ve felt out of place. I didn’t feel like we were all that close, but maybe things were different to them.
I’d also turned down their invitation in the half-baked hope that my parents would get time off for Christmas and have me come back home. Those hopes had been extinguished, however, when Mom had called me before her evening shift. She offered to let me come home anyway, but I turned her down. In the past, I could’ve gone with friends to the arcade or park if my parents weren’t around, but now they were so estranged from me that I’d just end up sitting around, alone.
A patch of ice caught my foot, breaking my trance and forcing me to focus on the scene in front of me again. The snow was accumulating steadily; there looked to be about a quarter-inch on the road now as I continued towards my destination.
The lights of the convenience store drowned out those of the surrounding houses and homely businesses as I approached. Unlike the crypt-like silence of the deserted town, the convenience store had a steady stream of people going in and coming out while a Christmas-y song played. I’d read that convenience stores were especially busy on Christmas Eve, when everyone was busy with preparations for the next day.
I shuffled through the aisles, trying to keep my head down while idly studying the other people in the store. Most of them were older, wearing thick coats and idly shuffling down the isles with small piles of goods in their hands. I recognized the green uniforms of some students from Yamaku. I quickly diverted my gaze from them, not wanting to create an awkward situation or accidentally stare at a missing limb or other physical condition. Not that it really mattered, though, since I didn’t recognize any of the students beyond perhaps seeing them once or twice in the hallways.
A pair of tied off sleeves caught my attention. I didn’t have to look at her face to remember her name. Rin was unique, as she seemed to view me with as much apathy as I viewed her. I looked away quickly, but she still spoke.
Her voice was monotone, and when I looked up I saw she had an expression to match.
I paused, uncertain if I should add to my greeting. Seeing that Rin was making no move to do so herself, I spoke again.
“What are you doing out here, Rin?”
“Buying. At least that’s what I wanted. I don’t think Emi would like this, though.”
She nodded at the items on the shelf. I had to agree with her, I don’t think Emi would appreciate a stick of deodorant as a gift, unless Rin was trying to tell her something. I smiled slightly.
The cashier handed me my receipt. I took my bag with the other hand, absentmindedly stuffing the receipt into my uniform pocket, where it joined Rin’s. I’d ended up just buying some instant noodles, while Rin had just bought a small can of coffee. I paid for both, as the cost was negligible and Rin didn’t seem to have any interest in paying. Rin was still standing by the door, looking at me with her with her trademarked deadpan expression.
We exited the store, stepping out into the now snow-covered town. I rummaged around in the bag and pulled the can out, holding it out to her. She looked at me for a second.
If there was one thing to admire about Rin, it was her straightforwardness. Drawing closer, I awkwardly slid the bag down my arm so I could use my hand to pull her pocket open. After a few tries, I slid the can into her pocket. She was wearing her normal uniform pants with sandals on her feet.
I backed away and began to turn around. I still hadn’t accomplished my half-assed goal of exploring the town. Perhaps there was an arcade or a park somewhere that I could go to, just like old times. Rin would probably just go back to the dorms. Hell, she might even live in town and could go home.
I hadn’t gotten very far before a voice sounded behind me.
I turned around to see Rin still standing where I left her.
“Aren’t you coming?”
I looked at her blankly.
I almost turned her down and kept walking. I wasn’t in the mood to socialize. I needed to just carry on, wandering around aimlessly until… I felt better, or something. Despite all of that, though, I found myself walking with Rin as we started back towards Yamaku.
The walk back was considerably harder than earlier. The sidewalk was blanketed in the still-falling snow. I absently worried about Rin as she trudged through the snow in open-toed shoes, but she showed no signs of distress.
We talked as we made our way back. She caught me off guard by talking about her life. She was from a well-off family; her parents were able-bodied and quite successful. Her mother had been a singer, and her father was a locally famous lawyer. It’d been her father’s idea to send her to Yamaku, where she would remain year-round. Her mother had tried to protest, but couldn’t bring herself to go against her husband.
The way she delivered it all in her normal monotone, matter-of-fact manner of speaking made it all the more sad, as it made it sound like she just viewed it as normal to be evicted by her parents.
“I don’t think Dad likes me.”
My mouth shot open, part in shock but also part in instinct to say something reassuring.
Say something, dammit!
Say what? “I’m sure that’s not true?” Given how direct she was, I’m pretty sure “that” was actually true. I can’t even tell her that I know what it’s like - sure, I wasn’t extraordinarily close with my parents either, but they’d never thrown me out.
We’d stopped walking. She stood a few paces in front of me. Her shoulders shook with what I assumed were restrained sobs.
“Well… I like you.”
I was able to phrase it like an off-hand rebuttal to her statement, but it was obvious how much weight such a sentence carried.
I took a step towards her, but she suddenly turned and ran into me with such force that I nearly fell over. Her sobs broke the tranquil quietness of the night as I embraced her tightly.
The warmth of her room was a nice contrast after being out in the snow for so long. The warmth combined with her faint cinnamon scent was like a heavy blanket, luring me to sleep. Rin was snuggled against my chest, her tie flopped to the side. Gently stroking her hair, I surrendered myself to sleep as the snow continued to fall outside.